Silencing his critics

The Sunderland-born box-to-box midfielder’s determination to prove himself at Anfield has paid off, as he is looking increasingly at home at the Merseyside club.

Jordan Henderson endured a difficult start to his Liverpool career but things are now looking up for the former England under-21 midfielder.

Eyebrows were raised in the summer of 2011 when former Red’s boss Kenny Dalglish paid Sunderland a fee reported to be in the region of GBP20 million for Henderson, who was aged just 20 at the time.

Henderson had caught the eye with some impressive displays for the Black Cats, but his move to Merseyside for what appeared to be an inflated fee came as a surprise. The weight of expectation hung heavily around Henderson’s shoulders in his first season at Anfield, as he failed to establish himself in the Reds’ first team.

Henderson did win a League Cup medal in his first season at the club, but his future was called into question following Dalglish’s departure. New boss Brendan Rodgers offered Henderson to Fulham in the summer in a bid to broker a deal for Clint Dempsey, but the midfielder rejected the move to Craven Cottage.

“I wasn’t playing regularly back in August so they gave me the option to go,” Henderson said. “But I just had to take it on the chin. So I said no. I didn’t want to go anywhere. I came to Liverpool wanting to stay here for the rest of my career. I certainly didn’t want to leave after a year.”

And the Sunderland-born box-to-box midfielder’s determination to prove himself at Anfield has paid off, as he is looking increasingly at home at the Merseyside club.

Henderson has caught the eye in recent weeks, breaking forward to support Luis Suarez and recent signing Daniel Sturridge as Rodgers’ new-look side has started to take shape.

Capped at senior level for England, Henderson was named England under-21 Player of the Year for 2012 after captaining the Three Lions to six wins out of six as they qualified for this summer’s European Championship.

And Liverpool boss Rodgers is delighted with the progress his young midfielder has made. Rodgers said: “He’s got a wonderful appetite, tactically he’s getting better all the time and he’s got great athleticism. I believe he’s one who will be a great signing for Liverpool. It just takes time. You look back years at Liverpool and players used to come in and they’d be put in the reserves for two years, and then they’d come out and play,

“These kids are now coming in at 19, 20 and having to go straight into the team. It takes a bit of time. But he’s really shown that he’s going to be a very good player.” Henderson has dislodged big-money summer signing Joe Allen in the Reds’ starting line-up and the Wales international will find it difficult to win his place back.

Given a licence to roam and scoring in the recent 5-0 thrashing of Norwich and the 2-2 draw at Arsenal, Henderson is improving with each game and his critics have been notably silent in recent weeks.

And Henderson is relishing the opportunity to develop under the guidance of Rodgers. He said: “The manager’s been brilliant with me, to be fair. He’s told me the things I need to work on and how I can get better.

“He’s looked back on previous games and talked to me about the things I can improve tactically, how I can be more disciplined, the positions I take up. I feel as if I’ve done that now. I'm still working on it but I feel I’m doing better now.”

If he maintains his recent form, Henderson could become a mainstay in the Liverpool side for years to come.

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